Gov. Dave Heineman would not say today whether he’s really interested in jumping into the scramble for U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson’s seat, but seemed less inclined to hint that he might do it than before Nelson announced he will retire after his term ends.
Asked whether he’s moved closer to a decision now that Nelson has decided not to seek another term, Heineman said, “I continue to listen to the people of Nebraska” but added that “I’ve emphasized over and over again… I love being governor of this great state.”
Heineman was re-elected governor in 2010, so to make a run for the Senate seat he would be ending his four-year term as governor prematurely. However, Heineman didn’t seem as inclined to dangle the prospect on Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. Previously, he took some shots at Nelson’s record when asked about whether he’d run.
Not that there aren’t enough Republicans already vying for the Republican nomination. There are five, with the frontrunners Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Treasurer Don Stenberg and state Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine. With Nelson dropping out of the race last week, the Democratic field is wide open, but Heineman said he doesn’t see the race as a lock for Republicans.
“I wouldn’t characterize it that way at all,” he said.
He did say the main difference between the Republican and Democratic parties in Nebraska is the competitiveness of their primaries.
“Just to have an R behind your name isn’t good enough,” he said. “I am confident that the winner of the Republican Primary is likely to be the next U.S. senator.”